MY VIEW ON OCCUPY NIGERIA:FUEL PRICE HIKE
Nigerians started 2012 with a burden gift from the President, Goodluck Jonathan, who removed subsidy on fuel and increased the pump price from #65 - #141. This led to one week of strike action that brought, Africa most populous nation to a standstill paralysing both economic and human activities.
One major reason while there was so much cry from the people was because Nigerians, believe that the only gain that they benefit from been an oil producing nation is the low price of fuel.With an epileptic power supply in the country,most businesses both in the formal and informal sector are powered by generators.
The protest that followed had a semblance, with the Arab spring that started last year in Tunisia. In Nigeria,it was tagged "OCCUPY NIGERIA" and the protesters actually occupied major cities and town in the country. I was involved in reporting during the protest through CNN iREPORT and these are my views.
How do i feel about how the government acted?
The Government announced on the 16th of January 2012, that the price of fuel has been reduced to #97 and called for workers to return back to work. When I listened to that broadcast made by the President, I said yes the Government has come to realize the people of Nigeria should never be taken for granted. After the broadcast Labour said the protest was suspended but the strike was still on but the people began to suspect something was going on.
Personally am not happy about what the Government did and Lagos been the Centre of the rally was occupied with military men. This angered the people because Nigeria paid a huge price to send the military back to the barrack, and the President’s decision to use military might to subdue the voices of protesters in Lagos was a shameful act and a challenge to the rule of law and the democracy in Nigeria.
Should the government have restored the full subsidy?
The Government should have restored full subsidy, and not partial because the effect of the partial subsidy is glaring everywhere you turn to in Nigeria. The prices of things are still high, most especially basic needs and food items. Nigeria is a blessed and rich country and the people are aware. They are aware that their leaders go into power to enrich their selves, that politics is the easiest way people make money and that is why it’s usually a do or die situation during election, the people believe that if the government cut its cost of governance there will be enough money for infrastructural development, if the government tackle corruption and deal with the so call “CABALS”, there will be more than enough to carry out projects. The question the people want the President to answer is; is he afraid to mention the cabal that siphon our money through oil deals and prosecute them? He was elected but acts as though he does not have the full mandate of the people to act and take decisive actions.
Were the unions right to call off the strikes?
The Union was not right at all though they said because they don’t want the protest to hijack by hoodlums but that would not have happened. Lagos that witnessed the largest turn out of protesters in the history of the country was able to protest peacefully except in cases where the police killed innocent protesters, like in Ogba area of Lagos. The people feel the Union sold out to the government and the people so much believed on them and the decisions they would make on their behalf but they disappointed the people. It would be hard for the people to trust Labour on their behalf again because they have confidence in them.
What did the protests accomplish?
The protest may not have achieved the fuel price the people desire but it increased the consciousness of the people to know that they have a voice and can make the government know they are indispensable in their decisions. It made the realize that they have a role in engaging the government actively in policies that are not fair to them and that the Nigerian people can never and should never be taken for granted. Than ever before the Nigeria people are now ready to take up the government in whatever they feel is against their existence as a nation and how they are governed. The protest made the government decide to cut salaries of members of the National Assembly and the Executive by 25%, though, this is still minute compare to what they earn as both basic salary and allowances.
What is the situation now? Have things returned to the way they were before?
The situation is that of disappointment and things have not returned back to normal. I went to some part of the city and the usual bustling that Lagos is used to is not yet back. Though some families that travelled for the Christmas holiday that were stranded due to the fuel hike, that made transport to be increased are not yet back and would be returning this week before they lose their jobs. The busiest places were the banks, where people went to get money that would help them adjust to the new price because things are now expensive, from transportation to food and others. They were less traffic that Lagos is used to and businesses gradually returning back to normal.
What’s next for Nigeria? Do i think the protests are the beginning of a bigger revolution in Nigeria?
The people want to watch and see if the government will fulfill what they said they would like ensuring that our oil refineries would be functional and productive, the mass transit, and other projects. There is less trust and confidence on the government from the people. Nigerians are very patient and resilient but if the government fail in these promises, am sure there will be a revolution and a long one at that.
How do you feel about the role that you played in telling the world about the protest?
I feel a sense of responsibility to my country and as a youth, been involved in making history because the OCCUPY NIGERIA MOVEMENT was something I was proud to be associated with. Seeing people from all walks of life standing united for a better Nigeria and I been involved in reporting to the world through CNN, was one of the greatest achievement in my career as a journalist. In Nigeria it is not easy to convene people for such a mass action but we did. The economy was on standstill for one week and I applaud Nigerians for that. Though it was close to the June 12 struggle of the Late Moshood Abiola but it resulted in loss of lives and properties. The occupy Nigeria is a catalyst for greater revolution that would emanate from Nigeria.
Link to my stories on CNN iREPORT: http://ireport.cnn.com/people/teenaija0880?numResults=10&view=documents